The Palestinian Christian.

For many years we have been concerned about the growing opposition within the Evangelical Church towards the modern State of Israel. This opposition is rooted in an interpretation of the Bible which views the Church as having replaced (or ¡¥fulfilled¡¦) Israel in God¡¦s prophetic purposes. In recent years this theology of replacement has become increasingly politicized, and enjoys wide-ranging support among Church leaders, denominations, charities, and associated mission and humanitarian groups. Of particular concern has been the speed with which alliances have been forged with secular, political and non-Christian religious groups in what can only be described as a mounting anti-Israel crusade.
The enclosed document highlights the scale of the problem, and it is our hope and prayer that its contents will serve not only to inform, but also to awaken the Church to the lateness of the hour and the nearness of our Lord¡¦s return.
As we stand with the Jewish people in these dark days, let us pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are unwittingly opposing God¡¦s purposes for His ancient covenant people, that by His grace they may be restored to the truth.
Your brother in Christ,
Andrew D. Robinson
Senior Pastor
Profile and Introduction 1
The Rise of Christian Palestinianism 2-7
An Ecumenical and Inter-Faith Agenda 8-19
Despising the Holocaust 20-22
How Christian Palestinianists Interpret 23-29
the Bible
Palestinianist Propaganda and the Jewish 30-32
Fifth Column
Unholy Alliances 33-35
The Theological Roots of Christian 36-38
The Goliath Taunt 39
On the Campaign Trail 40-46
Our Response to Christian Palestinianism? 47-50
Conclusion 51
This document is free of charge and must not be used for commercial purposes.
Front cover picture reproduced with permission from The Spectator magazine (first published Feb. 16, 2002).
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version.
Copyright c Paul Richard Wilkinson, March 2011.
I am the Associate Minister at Hazel Grove Full Gospel Church in Stockport, England. I was converted to Christ in February 1990 whilst studying Mathematics and Statistics at the University of York. I have a BSc in Mathematics and Statistics, a BA and MA in Theology, and a PhD in Religions and Theology. An edited version of my PhD thesis was published by Paternoster Press in 2007 entitled, For Zion¡¦s Sake: Christian Zionism and the Role of John Nelson Darby. I have also studied at the International School of Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
I am a member of the Council of Prophetic Witness Movement International in the UK, and a member of the Pre-Trib Research Center in Lynchburg, Virginia.
This document is based on a Powerpoint presentation I gave on December 7, 2010, at the 19th Annual Pre-Trib Study Group Conference in Dallas/Fort Worth (available from the address at the end of the document). The title was taken from the words spoken by the LORD to Jeremiah about the false prophets of Israel. I believe that an application of this prophecy can be made to those who believe and teach that God has rejected Israel and replaced her with the Church, and who give political, economic, and theological expression to this erroneous belief:
¡§Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD ¡K I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied ¡K I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart ¡K Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not¡¨ (Jeremiah 23:16-32).
I coined the term ¡¥Christian Palestinianism¡¦ whilst doing my PhD research at Manchester University (2003-2006). My thesis was entitled, ¡¥John Nelson Darby and the Origins of Christian Zionism.¡¦ The term is used to represent those within the Church whose theology of Israel is diametrically opposed to that of biblical Christian Zionism, and whose opposition to Israel and her Christian allies is expressed in their outspoken support of the Palestinian agenda.
1948 World Council of Churches
1956 Near East Christian Council
(1962 ¡V Near East Council of Churches)
1971 Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of
1974 Middle East Council of Churches
1979 U.S. ¡§La Grange Declaration¡¨
1982 World Vision reverses pro-Israel policy
1985 Donald Wagner and Ray Bakke
¡§listening tour¡¨ of Middle East
1986 Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding
1987 First Palestinian Intifada
1989 Naim Ateek, Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation
1990 First International Symposium on Palestinian Liberation Theology
1994 Sabeel – Palestinian Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
1995 ¡V
1. The Rise of Christian Palestinianism
The following timeline highlights some of the key stages in the development of this movement, which can be traced back to the establishment of the modern State of Israel on May 14, 1948:
„h In August 1948, just three months after the modern State of Israel was established, the World Council of Churches (WCC) was formed in Amsterdam. The WCC is the broadest expression of the modern ecumenical movement, and has become increasingly outspoken in its opposition to Israel and the alleged ¡¥occupation.¡¦
„h In 1956, the Near East Christian Council (NECC) was established as a co-ordinating body for Protestant mission in the Middle East, changing its name in 1962 to the Near East Council of Churches. This led to strong alliances being forged between Protestant and Orthodox churches in the region.
„h In 1974, the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) was established. The MECC is the oldest ecumenical organization in the region, now incorporating the Roman Catholic churches in the Middle East. Soon after its formation the MECC became affiliated with the World Council of Churches, which was then championing the cause of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The MECC has enabled member churches in the East and West to unite around a common, pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel policy.
„h During the 1970s, many liberal Protestants began to embrace the ¡¥liberation theology¡¦ of the Peruvian Roman Catholic theologian, Gustavo Gutierrez. His book, A Theology of Liberation (1971), portrayed the Lord Jesus Christ as the great liberator of the poor and the oppressed, and the champion of ¡§social justice¡¨.
„h In 1979, five thousand American church leaders formulated the ¡¥La Grange Declaration,¡¦ voicing their opposition to Christian Zionism and accusing Israel of occupation, land confiscation, and ¡§brutal torture¡¨.
„h In 1982, following Israel¡¦s invasion of Lebanon, World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, reversed its pro-Israel policy. In the same year, Mercy Corps International launched a series of educational tours to the Middle East to encourage North American Christians to re-evaluate their support for Israel.
„h In 1985, American Presbyterian minister and national director of the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, Donald Wagner, accompanied Ray Bakke of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization on a ¡¥listening tour¡¦ of Israel and six neighbouring Arab countries. Wagner and Bakke challenged the theological basis of traditional American Evangelical support for Israel.
„h In 1986, Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding (EMEU) was founded as an affiliation of North American churches and agencies which support Arab churches in the Middle East, oppose the State of Israel, and denounce Christian Zionists.
„h In 1987, the first Intifada (Palestinian ¡¥uprising¡¦) took place, resulting in the formation of Hamas, a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel.
„h In 1989, Palestinian Anglican Naim Ateek, a graduate of Berkeley, California, who was then serving as canon of St. George¡¦s Cathedral in Jerusalem, published his book, Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation. Ateek¡¦s book was the catalyst for the First International Symposium on Palestinian Liberation Theology, which was held at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem in 1990 and organized with the help of the Mennonite Central Committee.
„h In 1994, Naim Ateek founded ¡¥Sabeel¡¦ ¡V the Palestinian Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center based in Jerusalem. Christian Palestinianism was now institutionalized, having a name to spearhead the movement and a co-ordinated voice with which to marshal its troops.1
Naim Ateek
Chief Architect of Christian Palestinianism
1 Paul Richard Wilkinson, For Zion¡¦s Sake: Christian Zionism and the Role of John Nelson Darby (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2007), pp. 59-62.
In his most recent book, A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation (2008), Naim Ateek highlights what he believes is the essence of Palestinian liberation theology:
¡§In many ways, a Palestinian theology of liberation has re-established the balance between Christ¡¦s two natures ¡V his divinity and his humanity. Palestinian liberation theology focuses on the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth, who was also a Palestinian living under an occupation.¡¨2
Identifying Jesus as ¡§a Palestinian living under an occupation¡¨ has become normative for Christian Palestinianists, and a powerful propaganda weapon in their anti-Israel crusade. This identification was most evident in the Easter message which Ateek preached in Jerusalem on April 9, 2001:
¡§Here in Palestine Jesus is again walking the via dolorosa. Jesus is the powerless Palestinian humiliated at a checkpoint, the woman trying to get through to the hospital for treatment, the young man whose dignity is trampled, the young student who cannot get to the university to study, the unemployed father who needs to find bread to feed his family ¡K In this season of Lent, it seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him. It only takes people of insight to see the hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land, Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge Golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.¡¨3
The above picture is the work of Palestinian artist Mohammed Abdul Ghani Saba¡¦neh. I chose it to illustrate Naim Ateek¡¦s sermon, and what Egyptian-born British author and political commentator, Bat Ye¡¦or, calls the ¡§Arabization and Palestinization of the Jewish Jesus¡¨.4 This Palestinianist portrayal of the Lord Jesus is further illustrated by the following examples, which are taken from the website of Palestinian Media Watch:
2 Naim Stifan Ateek, A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2008), p. 11.
3 Naim Ateek, ¡¥Jerusalem Easter Message,¡¦ jerusalem-easter-message&catid=1:news&Itemid=229.
4 Bat Ye¡¦or, Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2007), p. 214.
On December 24, 2010, an Israeli research institute called Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), which monitors and analyzes messages being delivered to the Arab Palestinian population by its leaders, posted the following headline on their website:
¡§Jesus was a Palestinian ¡V ¡¥no one denies that,¡¦ says PA TV.¡¨
According to the PMW article, ¡§One of the ways the Palestinian Authority attempts to create a Palestinian history is to deny the Judean/Jewish nationality of Jesus, and misrepresent him as a ¡¥Palestinian.¡¦¡¨5
Palestinian Media Watch has been documenting the ongoing attempt by the Palestinian Authority to revise not only the history of the re-establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, but also the biblical history of the Lord Jesus Himself. PMW list numerous examples of this misrepresentation of Jesus, including a statement made on May 12, 2009, by its religious leader Muhammad Hussein that Jesus and Mary were ¡§Palestinians par excellence.¡¨ Author Samih Ghanadreh (above) was interviewed on PA TV and asserted that Jesus was the first Palestinian martyr, or shahid.
Mustafa Barghouti (right), an influential leader within the Palestinian Authority, made a similar claim in December 2009, when he described Jesus as ¡§the first Palestinian who was tortured in this land.¡¨6
As Bat Ye¡¦or writes, ¡§This Islamization of the Jewish sources of Christianity, disseminated through European Islamophile church networks, plays into the hands of Muslims eager to co-opt Christianity and instrumentalize Christians as partners in their struggle against Israel.¡¨7
5 Palestinian Media Watch, ¡¥Jesus was a Palestinian,¡¦
6 Palestinian Media Watch, ¡¥Jesus was a tortured Palestinian,¡¦; cf. Melanie Phillips, Londonistan: How Britain is Creating a Terror State Within (London: Gibson Square, 2007), pp. 212-238.
¡§Sabeel is an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians. Inspired by the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, this liberation theology seeks to deepen the faith of Palestinian Christians, to promote unity among them toward social action. Sabeel strives to develop a spirituality based on love, justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities. The word ¡¥Sabeel¡¦ is Arabic for ¡¥the way¡¦ and also a ¡¥channel¡¦ or ¡¥spring¡¦ of life-giving water.¡¨8
Sabeel seeks to disseminate its message through various channels:
„h Its own Cornerstone magazine (56 editions to date)
„h International Friends of Sabeel, which comprises international ¡¥chapters¡¦ located in the USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, and Oceana. (Sabeel has hosted over 30 major conferences in North America alone since 2002)
„h ¡¥Witness trips,¡¦ designed to enable Christians to experience life ¡§under the occupation¡¨
„h Youth conferences and women¡¦s conferences
„h International Conferences (8 to date), sponsored by groups such as the World Council of Churches, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Church of Scotland
Following the 5th International Sabeel Conference held in Jerusalem in 2004, a ¡¥reader¡¦ was published entitled, Challenging Christian Zionism: Theology, Politics and the Israel-Palestine Conflict. The conference brought together over six hundred members of the clergy, theologians, and peace activists from around the world to strategize against Christian Zionism; nearly three hundred delegates were from the United States. The following extracts from the conference offer an insight into the nature of this movement:
7 Ye¡¦or, Eurabia, p. 215.
8 Sabeel, ¡¥Purpose Statement,¡¦
Naim Ateek denounced Christian Zionism as ¡§the worst anti-Semitism one can imagine.¡¨ He accused Christian Zionists of teaching that the Jewish people must be brought back to the Land ¡§in order to be annihilated or converted to the Christian faith¡¨. Ateek declared that ¡§God is not the God of Armageddon but the God of Golgotha¡¨.9
Mitri Raheb, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, spoke on Acts 1:6 (¡§Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?¡¨). He denounced the Apostles as ¡§very narrow-minded,¡¨ ¡§nationalistic,¡¨ and ¡§blinded.¡¨ According to Raheb, Christian Zionists are not interested in the Palestinians, because suffering does not sell: ¡§They really want the American dream of success,¡¨ he said, which is why they ¡§want to win wars¡¨.10
Michael Prior (deceased), a radical Roman Catholic priest and theologian, was the most controversial speaker at the conference. In his unpublished address, Prior, who believes that the narratives in Genesis-Joshua belong to the genre of myths and legends, described Joshua as ¡§the patron saint of ethnic cleansers,¡¨ and the God whom Christian Zionists worship as ¡§the Great Ethnic-Cleanser, a militaristic and xenophobic genocidist, who is not sufficiently moral even to conform to the requirements of the Fourth Geneva Convention¡¨.11
9 Naim Ateek, ¡¥Introduction: Challenging Christian Zionism,¡¦ in Naim Ateek, Cedar Duaybis, Maurine Tobin (eds), Challenging Christian Zionism: Theology, Politics and the Israel-Palestine Conflict (London: Melisende, 2005), pp. 17, 19.
10 Mitri Raheb, ¡¥The Third Kingdom,¡¦ in Challenging Christian Zionism, pp. 265, 269.
11 See Michael Prior, ¡¥The Holy Land and the Scandalous Performance of the Churches,¡¦ Cornerstone (Winter, 2003), p. 6.
2. An Ecumenical and Inter-Faith Agenda
One of the most disturbing developments within Christian Palestinianism in recent decades has been the alliances which have been forged between Evangelicals and the Muslim world. Christian Palestinianist leaders frequently share conference platforms with Islamic clerics. Spearheading this inter-faith dialogue, and the Christian Palestinianist movement as a whole, is the Anglican vicar from England, Revd Dr Stephen Sizer.
Stephen Sizer Champion of
Christian Palestinianism
¡§The British author said that the Zionists have distorted remarks by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about the Holocaust.¡¨
The above quote was taken from the website of the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), who interviewed Stephen Sizer during his visit to Tehran in October 2007. During his interview, Sizer defended President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following his public denial of the Holocaust. (During a speech he delivered at the ¡¥World Without Zionism¡¦ conference in Tehran in 2005, Ahmadinejad insisted that Israel must be ¡§wiped off the map.¡¨) In his interview, Sizer laid the blame for the conflict in the Middle East at the feet of Israel and her Christian allies.
Please note that the picture disc standing in front of Stephen Sizer in the above photograph is of Ayatollah Khomeini (1900-1989), the Shiite Muslim leader who instigated the downfall of the Shah and transformed Iran into an Islamic Republic in 1979.
Profile of Stephen Sizer
¡E Vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water, in England. Christ Church is a member of the Evangelical Alliance, and of the Willow Creek Association, which is chaired by Bill Hybels. According to its own website, Willow Creek ¡§is regarded as the most influential ministry to evangelical pastors in the U.S.¡¨12 [Bill Hybels¡¦ wife Lynne works closely with Stephen Sizer, and is on record as saying, ¡§I don¡¦t hold to a theology asserting that the modern State of Israel represents a divinely mandated return of ancient Israel to the Promised Land¡¨.13 Of Willow Creek¡¦s overall approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Donald Wagner writes, ¡§There is no hint of a pro-Zionist perspective to Willow Creek¡¦s Middle East work.¡¨14]
¡E Founding member of the Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism (, ¡§which is a group of pastors, academics, students, interested laypersons and a Rabbi who have been disturbed by the growing influence of Christian Zionism on the political scene in America recognizing this ideology to be a major factor in the stalled peace process in Israel/Palestine.¡¨15
¡E Co-author of the ¡¥Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism¡¦ (August 22, 2006), which ¡§categorically rejected¡¨16 Christian Zionism and which was signed by the Roman Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran churches in Jerusalem
¡E Member of the Advisory Council of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding (EMEU)
¡E Member of the UK Board of Reference for the Mar Elias Educational Institutions in Ibillin, Galilee, founded by the Vatican-approved Melkite Catholic Archbishop, Elias Chacour
¡E Patron of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
¡E Photographer for the Palestine News Network
¡E Contributor to the Friends of Al-Aqsa journal
¡E Member of the Interfaith Group for Morally Responsible Investment
12 Willow Creek Association, ¡¥Our Story: Who We Are,¡¦
13 Lynne Hybels, ¡¥I Am Still Pro-Israel, But I¡¦ve Also Become Pro-Palestinian,¡¦ Sojourners, Action=magazine.article&issue=soj1007&article=following-jesus-in-the-west-bank.
14 Donald Wagner, ¡¥Evangelicals and Israel: Pointing to the Third Millennium,¡¦ 05.asp.
15 Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism,
16 Zenit, ¡¥Religious Leaders¡¦ Statement on Christian Zionism,¡¦
Stephen Sizer¡¦s two most influential books to date are his published PhD thesis, Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? (2004) and Zion¡¦s Christian Soldiers? The Bible, Israel and the Church (2007). Both books, which have been widely endorsed, serve only to misrepresent and caricature Christians who have, since the time of the English Puritans in the 16th and 17th centuries, understood that God has neither rejected Israel nor replaced her with the Church.
Reviewers of Sizer¡¦s first book have hailed it as the ¡§most important and comprehensive on the subject to date,¡¨ and the ¡§scholarly treatment to counteract the rabid prophecy pack.¡¨ They have condemned Christian Zionism as ¡§pernicious,¡¨ a ¡§totally unbiblical menace,¡¨ ¡§a powerful force that encourages the destruction of millions of people,¡¨ and ¡§one of the most dangerous and heretical movements in the world which fuels the Arab-Israeli conflict¡¨.17
Zion¡¦s Christian Soldiers includes a sermon by the notable British Evangelical scholar, John Stott, who has himself denounced Christian Zionism as ¡§biblically anathema to the Christian faith¡¨.18 In 2005, Time magazine ranked Stott among the 100 most influential people in the world.
Former assistant Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, Kenneth Cragg, has also endorsed Stephen Sizer¡¦s book. Before Sizer edited it, Cragg¡¦s endorsement originally included a statement which exposes the heart and tone of the Christian Palestinianist movement:
¡§Zion¡¦s Christian Perverts might have
been a wiser title.¡¨
17 Published Writings of Stephen Sizer,
18 Quoted in Donald E. Wagner, Anxious for Armageddon (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1995), p. 80.
Endorsements of Stephen Sizer¡¦s Books
Hank Hanegraaff (USA)
„h President of the Christian Research Institute in
North Carolina, and the ¡¥Bible Answer Man¡¦
¡§Sizer¡¦s Christian Zionism dramatically demonstrates how a politicized religious movement with a dubious pedigree is a prescription for disaster. From caricaturing Arabs to catalyzing Armageddon, Christian Zionist beliefs and behaviors are the antithesis of biblical Christianity.¡¨
Tony Campolo (USA)
„h Baptist minister, author, and Professor of
Sociology at Eastern University in St. Davids,
¡§A comprehensive survey describing how Christians have embraced a theological perspective that has encouraged justice for Jews but has also led to the oppression of Palestinian people and extreme hostility between Christians and Muslims worldwide.¡¨
Gilbert Bilezikian (USA)
„h One of the founding leaders of Willow Creek
Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois:
¡§Some theologies, that make Israel central to the purposes of God and to the processes of history, reduce the Church to the status of concubine while Israel becomes the Bride. Sizer¡¦s work provides a timely reminder that, according to the New Testament, God¡¦s people is to be identified on the basis of grace, not of race.¡¨
John Stott (UK)
„h Theologian, former chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II,
and Rector Emeritus of All Souls Church in London
¡§I myself believe that Zionism, both political and Christian, is incompatible with biblical faith. Stephen¡¦s book has helped to reinforce this conviction.¡¨19
19 ¡¥Sixty Academics Endorse Christian Zionism Book,¡¦
Stephen Sizer has promoted his distorted version of Christian Zionism across the Middle East. As these photographs indicate, he has been warmly received by Islamic clerics and scholars wherever he has gone, and was welcomed by one Islamic university in 2007 as ¡¥Archbishop¡¦ Stephen Sizer. This kind of reception indicates that what he is presenting to them is not the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ, but an anti-Zionist / anti-Christian Zionist distortion of the Gospel, which serves only to affirm Muslims in their hatred of Israel.
Please note again the photograph of Ayatollah Khomeini, this time hanging above the head of Stephen Sizer as he dialogues with Muslim clerics in Iran.
Stephen Sizer is not alone in championing the cause of Christian Palestinianism throughout the Muslim world. Two of his closest friends and colleagues within the movement are Gary Burge and Donald Wagner, both of whom are ordained ministers within the Presbyterian Church (USA). The following photographs show the three men at the Second Meeting of the Evangelical Christian-Muslim Dialogue, which was held in Tripoli, Libya, in 2008.
Donald Wagner
„h Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, North
Park University, Chicago
„h Founding member of the Institute for the Study of
Christian Zionism (ISCZ)
„h Author of Anxious for Armageddon (1995) and Dying in
the Land of Promise (2003)
Gary Burge
„h Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, Illinois
„h Member of the Advisory Board of the Holy Land Christian
Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF)
„h Member of the Board of Evangelicals for Middle East
Understanding (EMEU)
„h Author of Whose Land? Whose Promise? (2003) and
Jesus and the Land (2010)
Bridges of Faith
Evangelical-Muslim Dialogue Conference, Toronto, May 2010
In May 2010, Sizer, Burge and Wagner were in Toronto for the fourth ¡§extended conversation¡¨ with Islamic scholars, sponsored by the World Islamic Call Society. The first such meeting took place in Chicago in 2006, and was followed by further ¡§conversations¡¨ in Tripoli (Libya), and in Pasadena, California (at Fuller Theological Seminary). According to the Bridges of Faith website,
¡§The ultimate goal of the Evangelical Christian-Muslim Dialogue is to commit ourselves to a dialogue that will build a deep and lasting trust that will remain despite any obstacles that may arise ¡K It is our intention to endeavor sincerely to discover our common values and systems of ethics so that we may agree on a common set of shared spiritual values and moral precepts.¡¨20
The ¡§ultimate goal¡¨ outlined by Bridges for Faith is clearly at odds with the ultimate goal of the commission which was given by our Lord Jesus Christ to His Church, namely to go and ¡§teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you¡¨ (Matthew 28:19, 20). How, then, can we reconcile the fact that Evangelical leaders are involved to this extent with Islamic scholars and clerics, with whom they have nothing in common? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that they have a common enemy, namely Israel and her Christian allies. The following scripture seems to encapsulate what is happening:
¡§And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves¡¨ (Luke 23:12).
20 Bridges of Faith, ¡¥The Evangelical Christian-Muslim Dialogue Group,¡¦
The Influence of Christian Palestinianism on the Denominational Churches in the United States and the United Kingdom
Over the past few years a number of Church denominations and ecumenical organizations have issued statements condemning the alleged Israeli ¡§occupation,¡¨ and have chosen either to support campaigns to boycott Israeli goods and divest from multinational companies operating within Israel, and/or to denounce Christian Zionism as a heresy, which they say threatens peace in the Middle East. It is striking to observe that the reports presented to the various denominational synods or assemblies were all based on the writings of Stephen Sizer, Gary Burge, Donald Wagner, Naim Ateek and other members of the Christian Palestinianist movement; not one Christian Zionist theologian or historian was referred to.
The following resolution, which was adopted by the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America in 2004, is representative of all of the above denominations:
¡§To declare the ideology of Christian Zionism, and the extreme form of dispensationalism that undergirds it, to be a distortion of the biblical message noting the impediment it represents to achieving a just peace in Israel/Palestine.¡¨21
21 Reformed Church in America, ¡¥Position on Christian Zionism,¡¦
Israel¡¦s Ecumenical Enemy
In September 2009, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) met in Geneva and released its ¡¥Statement on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.¡¦ The anti-Israel thrust of this statement is entirely consistent with the historic position adopted by the WCC in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Statement supported the establishment of a Palestinian state, condemned the ¡§unyielding nature of Israel¡¦s occupation,¡¨ called for an end to Israeli settlement building, endorsed UN resolutions which seek to place Jerusalem ¡§under a special international regime,¡¨ and called for ¡§an international boycott of goods produced in the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.¡¨22
In 2002, the WCC published a document (left), calling upon member churches to help end what they referred to as ¡§the illegal occupation of Palestine.¡¨ In 2007, the WCC launched the Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF), which provides a platform for churches ¡§aimed at ending the illegal occupation (of Palestinian territories) in accordance with UN resolutions.¡¨23 In its statement about Jerusalem, the PIEF declared the following: ¡§The WCC has repeatedly addressed the question of Jerusalem since 1948. It affirms that Jerusalem is a holy city for three monotheistic religions ¡V Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. The WCC believes that ¡¥Jerusalem must remain an open and inclusive city¡¦ and that it must be ¡¥shared in terms of sovereignty and citizenship¡¦ within the framework of international law.¡¨24
22 World Council of Churches, ¡¥Statement on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,¡¦
23 World Council of Churches, ¡¥Israel/Palestine,¡¦ html.
24 Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum, ¡¥Jerusalem,¡¦
In its ¡¥Proposed Strategic Plan of Actions for 2009-2010,¡¦ the PIEF declared how ¡§For the last forty years the Christian churches [within the WCC] have called for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.¡¨ The Plan¡¦s ¡¥Premises for Action¡¦ included the following:
„h That UN resolutions are the basis for peace
„h That Palestinians have the right of self-determination and the right of return
„h That a two-state solution must be viable
„h That Jerusalem must be an open, accessible, inclusive and shared city for the two peoples and three religions
„h That the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal, and constitute an obstacle to peace
„h That the ¡¥Separation Barrier¡¦ constructed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories is a grave breach of international law and must be removed from the occupied territory
A further stated goal of the PIEF is to ¡§challenge Christian Zionist and millennialism theologies or other theologies which support the occupation¡¨.25
Boycotting Israel
In an interview conducted by Stephen Sizer during the ¡¥Christ at the Checkpoint¡¦ conference in Bethlehem in 2010, Naim Ateek expressed his delight at the way Christians in the United States were enthusiastically supporting ¡§B.D.S. ¡V Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions¡¨ against Israel. As Ateek stated, ¡§I feel that that¡¦s the way forward ¡V it¡¦s the way of resisting non-violently¡¨.26
In January 2011, Marwan Barghouti (right), a notorious Palestinian terrorist and head of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs¡¦ Brigades, sent a letter to the International Conference for Palestinian Prisoners held in Morocco. Barghouti is serving five life sentences for orchestrating suicide bombing raids. In his letter, Barghouti described Israel as ¡§the worst and most abominable enemy known to humanity and modern history,¡¨ before calling for a complete boycott of all Israeli products:
¡§We must continue to act to isolate Israel further on the international, official, and popular level, and on all levels and in all spheres, as well as continuing the campaign to boycott all Israeli goods, not limiting it to settlement goods exclusively.¡¨27
25 Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum, ¡¥Proposed Strategic Plan of Actions 2009-2010,¡¦ admin/files/wcc-main/documents/p3/pief/files/PIEF%20Strategic%20Plan-final.pdf.
26 Stephen Sizer¡¦s blog, ¡¥Canon Naim Ateek on Sabeel and the Future of Palestine,¡¦ 03/canon-niam-ateek-on-sabeel-and-future.html.
27 Palestinian Media Watch, ¡¥Marwan Barghouti on Israel,¡¦
On April 1, 1933, just one week after taking power in Germany, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler ordered a boycott of Jewish shops, banks, and businesses. This order was implemented by Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels:
Reproduced with permission from Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
The same anti-Semitic spirit which drove the Nazi regime in 1933 and beyond is today driving the ¡¥Boycott Israeli Goods¡¦ campaign, which many Christian leaders, mainstream denominations, and the World Council of Churches have unashamedly and irresponsibly endorsed:
As we read in the Book of Ecclesiastes,
¡§The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing
under the sun¡¨ (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
Rediscovering Palestine
In May 1998, a stand seeking to promote ¡¥alternative tourism¡¦ to ¡¥Palestine¡¦ featured at the Christian Resources Exhibition (CRE) at Sandown Park in Surrey, England. The stand was called ¡¥Rediscovering Palestine.¡¦28 Today this umbrella organisation claims to represent charities and organisations in the UK who are ¡§working for justice, peace and reconciliation for all peoples in the Holy Land.¡¨29 The reality is that Rediscovering Palestine equates, in my mind, to Reprimanding, Replacing and Redefining Israel. Its recommended reading list is a veritable ¡§who¡¦s who¡¨ of Christian Palestinianist authors featured in this document, thereby revealing the true agenda behind this organisation.
(Photographs posted on the R.P. website, taken from its 2010 Greenbelt festival stall in Cheltenham, England)
Member Organisations include: Recommended Authors include:
Amos Trust Naim Ateek
BibleLands Stephen Sizer
Christian Aid Michael Prior
Church Missionary Society Mark Braverman
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland Donald Wagner
Friends of Sabeel UK Elias Chacour
Living Stones Ben White
Palestine Solidarity Campaign Ilan Pappe
World Vision Mitri Raheb
28 Stephen Sizer, ¡¥The Premised Land: Palestine and Israel,¡¦
29 Rediscovering Palestine website,
3. Despising the Holocaust
Christian Palestinianists are notorious for exploiting, and ultimately denigrating, the Holocaust in pursuit of their anti-Zionist and anti-Christian Zionist agenda. They typically accuse Israel and her Christian allies of playing ¡§the Holocaust guilt-card,¡¨30 and of hiding behind ¡§Holocaust theology¡¨31 in order to shield Israel from censure.
Kenneth Cragg (left) denounces what he calls ¡§the awful authority of the Holocaust,¡¨ which ¡§unjustifies all Palestinian protest¡¨32 and gives Israel ¡§a warrant of innocence¡¨.33 The late Michael Prior adopted the same argument, and tone, in his writings, claiming that Auschwitz had become for the Jewish people ¡§a place where they can hide their accountability in the present¡¨ and ¡§a symbol that makes them untouchable.¡¨34 Marc Ellis, one of a number of Jewish liberation theologians who staunchly support this pro-Palestinian movement, portrays the Arab Palestinians living in Israel today as ¡§the last victims of the Holocaust¡¨.35
Secular historian Regina Sharif, whom Christian Palestinianists have cited in their writings, takes this whole argument to its logical conclusion. Sharif asserts that ¡§on the theoretical as well as on the practical level, the Nazis and the Zionists saw eye to eye,¡¨ claiming that the ¡§cornerstone of Zionist theory ¡K found its ultimate justification in the Nazi theories of racial supremacy.¡¨ As far as Sharif is concerned, ¡§Zionism, racism, and anti-Semitism are all part of one phenomena¡¨.36
30 Charles P. Lutz, ¡¥What¡¦s So Special About This Space?,¡¦ in Charles P. Lutz and Robert O. Smith, Christians and a Land Called Holy: How We Can Foster Justice, Peace, and Hope (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2006), p. 31.
31 Michael Prior, ¡¥Zionism and the Bible,¡¦ in Holy Land Hollow Jubilee: God, Justice and the Palestinians, ed. by Naim Ateek and Michael Prior (London: Melisende, 1999), p. 71.
32 Kenneth Cragg, This Year in Jerusalem (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1982), pp. 129-131.
33 Kenneth Cragg, The Arab Christian: A History in the Middle East (London: Mowbray, 1992), p. 28.
34 Michael Prior, Zionism and the State of Israel: A Moral Inquiry (London: Routledge, 1999), p. 220.
35 Marc H. Ellis, ¡¥The Boundaries of Our Destiny: A Jewish Reflection on the Biblical Jubilee on the Fiftieth Anniversary of Israel,¡¦ in Ateek and Prior, Holy Land Hollow Jubilee, p. 236.
36 Regina S. Sharif, Non-Jewish Zionism (London: Zed Press, 1983), pp. 5, 1, 76.
Hank Hanegraaff, President of the Christian Research Institute (CRI) based in Charlotte, North Carolina, follows suit in his book, The Apocalypse Code (2007). He affirms the equating of Zionism with racism, and follows revisionist historians when speaking of ¡§the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians¡¨.37 Hanegraaff¡¦s aggressively anti-Zionist, anti-Christian Zionist, and specifically anti-Dispensationalist stance is perhaps not surprising when we consider that his book is endorsed by Gary Burge, Stephen Sizer, and Colin Chapman, all of whom have appeared on his daily national radio show, ¡¥The Bible Answer Man.¡¦ Their books are for sale on the CRI website.
The Holocaust is ¡§an indispensable ideological weapon ¡K for deflecting criticism of Israel¡¨ (Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry, pp.3, 30).
In his book, Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?, Stephen Sizer enlists the support of Norman Finkelstein, one of the most controversial Jewish political scientists and anti-Zionist activists in the United States. Sizer cites Finkelstein¡¦s book, The Holocaust Industry (2000), in order to strengthen his own contention that the Holocaust has been exploited by both Jewish and Christian Zionists ¡§to immunize Israel from censure.¡¨38
37 Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), pp. xxiii, 166-169.
38 Sizer, Christian Zionism, p. 21.
In November 2010, Sizer posted on his internet blog a video of Norman Finkelstein addressing students at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. In the video, Finkelstein is challenged by a young student who was offended by remarks he had made likening Israeli Jews to Nazis (something which Finkelstein has done ever since he campaigned against Israel¡¦s invasion of Lebanon in 1982). Finkelstein defended himself by speaking of how his parents had survived the Auschwitz and Majdanek death camps and the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, and how every member of their families had perished during the Holocaust. Dismissing the student¡¦s remarks and what he called ¡§crocodile tears,¡¨ Finkelstein turned on his detractors in the audience by shouting: ¡§If you had any heart in you, you would be crying for the Palestinians¡¨. Underneath this clip on his blog, Stephen Sizer writes:
¡§Norman Finkelstein has my deepest admiration
for the stand he is taking.¡¨39
The suffering which Norman Finkelstein¡¦s parents and their relatives endured during the Holocaust must never be overlooked or downplayed in any assessment of the man himself. However, for the purposes of this document, the question needs to be asked: How can an Evangelical vicar like Stephen Sizer express ¡§deepest admiration¡¨ for such a controversial and combative man, who describes himself as ¡§a devout atheist,¡¨ and who, in 2008, was banned from entering Israel for ten years by the Israeli government because of ¡§security concerns¡¨? Finkelstein is so controversial that a documentary portrait of his life was released in the U.S. in 2009 entitled, American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein. The film, which features the clip mentioned above, gives an insight into the troubled and self-destructive mind of a Jewish man who, during his 2008 book tour of southern Lebanon in the wake of Israel¡¦s conflict with Hezbollah, made the following statement in front of the cameras:
¡§I think that the Hezbollah represents the hope. Sometimes I think it¡¦s a very good thing that Hezbollah inflicted a huge defeat on Israel. You have to keep knocking them into the head until they reach their senses.¡¨40
39 Stephen Sizer¡¦s blog,
40 David Ridgen and Nicolas Rossier, American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein (Typecast Releasing: 2009).
4. How Christian Palestinianists Interpret the Bible
Fr. Elias Chacour Godfather of Christian Palestinianism
¡§We have been taught for centuries that the Jews are the Chosen People. We do not believe anymore that they are the Chosen People of God, since now
we have a new understanding of that Choseness.¡¨
This quote was taken from Elias Chacour¡¦s article, ¡¥Reconciliation and Justice: Living with the Memory,¡¦ in Naim Ateek and Michael Prior¡¦s book, Holy Land Hollow Jubilee: God, Justice and the Palestinians (London: Melisende, 1999, p. 112). It sums up how Christian Palestinianists misunderstand and misinterpret what the Bible so clearly teaches about God¡¦s prophetic purposes for Israel, and how they, in turn, misrepresent the Holy One of Israel as a covenant-breaking God.
Elias Chacour is the Vatican-approved Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Israel and one of the most influential Arabs in Israel. He is greatly esteemed within the Christian Palestinianist camp. His first book, Blood Brothers, was published in 1983 and tells the story of his childhood in Upper Galilee before the establishment of the modern State of Israel in 1948. The influence of this book on Evangelicals in the West cannot be overstated. According to Donald Wagner, Blood Brothers ¡§touched the hearts and opened the minds of thousands of evangelicals concerning Christians in the Holy Land¡¨.41
41 Dan O¡¦Neill and Don Wagner, Peace or Armageddon? The Unfolding Drama of the Middle East Peace Accord (London: Marshall Pickering, 1993), p. 88.
In the same year that Blood Brothers appeared, Colin Chapman, a former lecturer in Islamic Studies at the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, published one of the most influential, and damaging, books on the subject of Israel, entitled Whose Promised Land? (1983). British journalist and author Melanie Phillips has aptly described it as ¡§a poisonous travesty that uses theology to deligitimise Israel.¡¨42 By contrast, Hank Hanegraaff is among the many Evangelical leaders indebted to Chapman, whose book he quotes from extensively in The Apocalypse Code.
Fulfilment Theology
In more recent times, Christian Palestinianists have tried, and failed, to rebrand their ¡¥replacement theology¡¦ as ¡¥fulfilment theology.¡¦ Their basic assertion is summed up in Colin Chapman¡¦s quote (right), namely that Jesus fulfilled all the promises relating to the return of the Jewish people to the Land. By ¡¥fulfilled,¡¦ Chapman means that everything spoken of by the Old Testament prophets in relation to the land and people of Israel was spiritually fulfilled two thousand years ago in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The nation of Israel thus holds no further prophetic significance, since the Church is ¡¥the new Israel¡¦.
In Jesus and the Land (2010), Gary Burge gives the following interpretation of Acts 1:6-8 and Galatians 6:16 respectively:
¡§Jesus does not envision a restoration of Israel per se but instead sees himself as embracing the drama of Jerusalem within his own life ¡K In some manner, the initial restoration of Israel has already begun inasmuch as Christ, the new Temple, the New Israel, has been resurrected¡¨ (p. 60).
¡§This is perhaps the apostle¡¦s most stark example of universalizing the new identity of the people of God. The apostle is redrawing the definitions for self-identity¡¨ (pp. 83-84).
42 Phillips, Londonistan, p. 233.
In the Footsteps of Calvin
Christian Palestinianists like Gary Burge look to the French Protestant Reformer, John Calvin, as one of their theological champions. In his commentary on Acts 1:6-8, Calvin asserted that there were ¡§as many errors ¡K as words¡¨ in the question which the Apostles asked the risen Lord concerning the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. This, he believed, proved ¡§how bad scholars they were under so good a Master,¡¨ and therefore ¡§when he [Jesus] saith, you shall receive power, he admonisheth them of their imbecility.¡¨ Calvin further claimed that Jesus was attempting to ¡§lift up their minds¡¨ from ¡§the common error¡¨ of the Jewish nation, which believed that the Messiah would ¡§reign as a king in this world a thousand years¡¨. This interpretation, Calvin maintained, was the ¡§folly¡¨43 which had been adopted by the early Church premillennialists, who were known as ¡¥chiliasts.¡¦
In his own exposition of these verses, Donald Wagner (below) has not only contemporised John Calvin¡¦s commentary, but also added a mocking tone to it:
¡§It was as if these disciples were saying, ¡¥Well, Lord, we were truly impressed by the miracles you performed while we labored with you. We were inspired as well by your great teachings. Then the resurrection was truly fantastic. But now, will you do the ¡§big one¡¨? Will you restore the kingdom to Israel now and drive the Romans from our land?¡¦ I think the Lord needed to employ every bit of his sense of humour at this point. I can see him saying, half in jest, and half seriously, ¡¥I don¡¦t believe it! Where have you people been for the past three years? You¡¦ve missed the point of everything!¡¦ Then Jesus became very harsh with the disciples ¡K This is a clear word from the Lord to the futurist dispensationalists ¡K Here Jesus was telling the disciples not to place their trust in nor devote their energy to end-time prophecy or the militant Zionist ideology of the Zealots.¡¨44
43 Commentary Upon the Acts of the Apostles by John Calvin: Vol. I, ed. by Henry Beveridge (Edinburgh: 1844), pp. 43-48.
44 Wagner, Anxious for Armageddon, p. 83.
Creating God in Their Own Image
One of the most conspicuous characteristics of Christian Palestinianism is its low view of the authority of Scripture. The very fact that its proponents deny any future prophetic role for the nation of Israel, and fail to acknowledge the sovereign hand of God in Israel¡¦s re-establishment in 1948, substantiates this claim. Consider the following statement made by Naim Ateek, as he expounds ¡¥a new way¡¦ of interpreting Scripture ¡V what he calls a ¡§new hermeneutic¡¨ (p. 81):
¡§When confronted with a difficult passage in the Bible ¡K one needs to ask such simple questions as: Is the way I am hearing this the way I have come to know God in Christ? Does this fit the picture I have of God that Jesus has revealed to me? ¡K If it does, then that passage is valid and authoritative. If not, then I cannot accept its validity or authority¡¨ (pp. 81-82).
For example, when Joshua and the Israelites were commanded by God to destroy Jericho, they ¡§utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword¡¨ (Joshua 6:21). According to Ateek, such a passage reflects ¡§an early stage of human understanding of God¡¦s revelation that conflicts with the Christian¡¦s understanding of God as revealed in Jesus Christ¡¨ (p. 82), and therefore has no authority for the believer; it serves only to ¡§clarify what God is not¡¨ (p. 83).
In his most recent book, A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation (2008), Ateek highlights what he considers to be the single most authoritative text in the Old Testament:
¡§In my understanding, the inclusive text of Jonah is a standard against which Old Testament theology must be measured¡¨ (pp. 54-55).
According to Ateek, the author of Jonah is ¡§the first Palestinian liberation theologian¡¨ (p. 71), since he exposed the narrow nationalism of both the prophet and the nation of Israel, which had misrepresented God as ¡§tribal and xenophobic¡¨.
In Naim Ateek¡¦s view, the Book of Jonah represents ¡§the movement toward a more universal understanding of God, the nations, and land¡¨ (p.

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